Education secretary Justine Greening today revealed that she is abandoning the government's hugely controversial plans for Year 7 Sats resits, and has promised teachers that there will be no new national tests or assessments until 2018-19.
She has also pledged to launch a new consultation "early in the new year" about the future of primary assessment. Her announcement follows a chaotic year in primary assessment and comes after teaching unions moved closer towards a boycott of next year's Sats.
Ms Greening told TES: "We're not going to introduce [Sats resits]. My sense was that the real focus needed to be on helping children to catch up and that was a smarter way of approaching those children who do not reach the expected level at key stage 2.
"We wanted to put some additional resourcing that would have gone into administering key stage 2 resits to helping children to catch up."
Instead, the Department for Education will make KS2 resit papers available to secondary schools to use on an optional basis.
The decision is set out in a written ministerial statement in which the education secretary acknowledged that "the pace and scale" of recent changes to primary assessment had been "stretching".
The statement also reveals that:
- New guidance on the moderation of teacher assessment has been produced by the DfE in consultation with teaching unions;
- The key stage 1 spelling, punctuation and grammar tests will remain non-statutory in 2016-17;
- The early years foundation stage profile will remain in place for 2017-18.
Ms Greening has reaffirmed the decision that no more than 6 per cent of primaries will be below the floor standard in 2016, but acknowledged that the results are not comparable with preceding years and said that any decision to intervene in a school will be based on a range of measures.
"Because of the changes to primary assessment, I want to be clear that no decision on intervention will be made on the basis of the 2016 data alone," the statement added.
The Year 7 Sats resits were first announced in the 2015 Conservative general election manifesto, which said that all pupils who “fail to meet the expected standard” in the end of primary English and maths assessments would be required to take the tests again in their first year at secondary school.
'A year of chaos'
But the idea has proved unpopular with teachers and has been condemned by heads, who warned in February that it would replace clarity with turmoil and that the resits represented a "probably unintentional" return to the 11-plus.
The resits were expected to be introduced in December 2017, with a consultation and sample tests due to be published in December 2016.
Ms Greening has promised that next year's consultation on the future of primary assessment will "set out a longer term, sustainable approach". She said that it will "cover key issues, including the best starting point to measure the progress that children make in primary school, and the role and operation of teacher assessment".
The news follows more than a year of chaos and turmoil in primary testing and assessment.
It began in September 2015 when the government published the frameworks for the statutory teacher assessment at the end of Years 2 and 6, but revealed it would be for one year only. By February the government had published further exemplification materials for the teacher assessments. Unions reacted with fury, saying that the scheme was "unworkable".
In the run-up to Sats week in May, the NUT teaching union voted to consider a boycott of the tests, parents pulled their children out of school, and the KS1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test was cancelled after it emerged that the DfE had accidentally published the test paper online in January.
In May teachers said this year’s reading test had been so difficult that it left some pupils in tears. And in July it was revealed that just 53 per cent of 10- and 11-year-olds had met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. That compared with the previous year when 80 per cent of pupils achieved what was then the expected level 4.